SpaceX has been set to launch its sixth set of Starlink satellites today, but the launch was aborted at the last minute due to an engine power issue.
A Falcon 9 rocket carrying the satellites was set up on the launch pad at Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, but an error occurred during the launch preparation process. At T minus 40 seconds, the rocket was confirmed go for launch. But at the moment of ignition, the rocket failed to take off.
“We have an abort,” SpaceX commentators said during the livestream. “Possible errors.”
Michael Andrews, SpaceX supply chain supervisor, confirmed the issue: “We had an abort condition just prior to liftoff. We’ll hopefully have more information and share it with you soon.”
Shortly after the failed launch, SpaceX released some information about what issue had occurred: “On Sunday, March 15, SpaceX stood down from its launch attempt of Starlink satellites,” the company said in a statement posted to its website. “A standard auto-abort was triggered due to out of family data during engine power check. SpaceX will announce the next launch date opportunity once confirmed on the Range.”
The plan for the mission was to launch 60 Starlink satellites aboard a Falcon 9 rocket. This particular rocket was noteworthy for having its first stage used in four different launches, with today’s Starlink launch set to be its fifth. “Falcon 9’s first stage supported the Iridium-7 NEXT mission in July 2018, the SAOCOM 1A mission in October 2018, the Nusantara Satu mission in February 2019, and the second launch of Starlink in November 2019,” SpaceX wrote.
“Following stage separation, SpaceX will land Falcon 9’s first stage on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship, which will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. Falcon 9’s fairing previously supported the first launch of Starlink in May 2019. Approximately 45 minutes after liftoff, SpaceX’s fairing recovery vessels, “Ms. Tree” and “Ms. Chief,” will attempt to recover the two fairing halves.”
The launch of the next batch of Starlink satellites is highly likely to still go ahead. But it will be delayed until the issue which caused the triggering of the auto-abort can be investigated. SpaceX will also need to find a new date for the launch, which can be difficult with the high demand on launch facilities. We’ll keep you updated on when you can expect the delayed launch to happen.